The Scent of Roses

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The Lady hadn’t left her home when she had passed on. It wasn’t that she was trapped there, she could come and go as much as she wanted. The Lady had loved the house so much that she couldn’t help but walk the corridors and through rooms still.

The Lady was glad people still came and stayed in her house. She loved hearing them praise the decor and paintings, the gardens and the water fountains. Also, it was so nice to hear the laughter of children once more as they dashed from room to room.

She knew her presence was felt because people talk about smelling her perfume. It was one she had made herself using roses from the garden and water from the spring. The Lady felt pleased by this, she liked them to know she was still here watching over her house.

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The abandoned theme park was where we hung out. I loved the creepy feeling of the dilapidated buildings. All my friends were daring each other to do stupid things and I got picked to slide down the helter-skelter.

I climbed the rusty steps and held on to the blue painted chipped handrail. I made it to the top and hurried into the dark mouth. I felt the helter skelter shaking as I shuffled downwards.

There was a snapping and groaning of plastic and metal. I tried to run but my head hit the tunnel top and stumbling down my belly I blacked out.

Screaming from the girls outside brought me back to then all sound faded as I shook the pain from my head.

I carried on sliding down, feeling all the bumps of the joints underneath me.

Finally, I reached the end and slide out into a dirty puddle topped with leaves. Breathing deeply, I waited for the cheers of my friends but none came. Instead, other voices crowded the air welcoming me to Fun Land.

 

(Inspired by; https://crispinakemp.com/2020/05/13/crimsons-creative-challenge-79/ with thanks).

The Cry #FFFC

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Magic was something that everyone had. We were all born with it but had different quantity of it. Of course, I had been doubly blessed and sent off to be with grandma as soon as I could walk. Here at her cottage and gardens, I and the other apprentices learnt the crafts and what our lives really meant.

Though I had often wondered, late at night or whilst sweeping out the pig pens, what the other side of magic looked like. There were many different kinds but the Dark was the most fascinating. And despite what everyone thought, it wasn’t all evil. I doubt any of the rumours surrounding those people were true but unless you were on their side, you didn’t know.

Leaning on the broom I was daydreaming about the dark witches when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned, thinking I was about to be told off for not working but it was Elan.

She was dressed like me, in a plain blue working dress but she had on a leather apron which meant she had been working in the lab. On her head was a small, bronze tiara which marked her as head apprentice.

Elan began speaking slowly and moving her hands in a directional way.

I watched and waited. Trying to figure out what she wanted. Sometimes, I picked up what people were saying easily and other times I didn’t.

I had been born deaf. I could speak a little but preferred not to. I could lip read and hand signing was always useful. I had been trying to learn how to mind read but it was tricky.

Elan paused, signed and took out a notepad. We could all read and write. She wrote something then turned it to me and I read;

Go fetch a mandrake 

I shook my head, the colour draining from my face.

Elan snatched the broom from me and hit me over the head with it. Straw and muck rained into my hair and headache like pain thumped into my skull.

I turned to get away from her and she began beating me with the broom. I ran off and I guess she must have been shouting after me because I saw the looks on the other girls faces.

All the way to the back of the garden, were the dreaded greenhouse was. Ivy covered the glass thickly, blocking out most of the light. The door too was covered but with a sharp tug the ivy would give way. Dead plants and broken pots were scattered around. A rubbish dump lay around here and wild roses grow amongst other things that had survived and planted themselves.

I crept up to the door which I know was stupid. I felt for the handle and slide the door back. Stale air crept out, hot with the heat of summer. I went in and didn’t look around. The layouts were all the same in each greenhouse, even the order of plants by ages. New seeds to the back, the oldest at the front and then a procession of growth in between.

The pots were black hard clay and sticking out of them were dark, thick leaves. Elan hadn’t told me which one to pick. I debated going back to ask her but decided to take a chance and picked not from the first group- the oldest- but from the middle and still fully grown.

Picking up one of the mandrakes, I walked carefully to the cottage and to the back door. I guess the girls who had been around before had told the others what I had been sent to to and they had all left the area. No one wanted to be around, even outside incase something happened the mandrake got loose.

The kitchen door was open but the room empty. A well stocked fire and going in the massive fireplace and pot was bubbling. Vegetables half cut lay on the table and a plate with the remains of a meal had also been abandoned like even the servants had known my task.

The door to the basement was the lab and I went slowly down the stairs which were lit with candles that dripped globs of red wax. I smelt burning of something harsh which I couldn’t put my finger on. I felt the steps more then seeing them and arrived at the last one before I knew it.

Lowering the mandrake which had been blocking my view. I saw the lab which was full of tables, bookcases and equipment then ahead of me was an open doorway. I saw a shadow go past and guessed everyone was in there.

I walked over and stood in the doorway. There was grandma, Elan and three other woman. The room was circler and empty but for the markings on the floor, the black candles and a bowl which was were the burning was coming from.

Elan waved me over and I walked around the markings on the floor, the bricks of the wall scraping my back. I held out the plant to her, but Elan shook her head and pointed me over to grandma. I went with dread filling me. I didn’t need a note telling me what I had to do as I could sense it.

Grandma handed me a dagger then floated across the floor. As one the witches put earmuffs on and pressed themselves near to the door. They watched me whilst their months carried on moving, I guessed saying the words to the spell they were casting.

I set the pot on the floor and grab all of the leaves of the mandrake in one hand. I didn’t want to do it. Why couldn’t they have picked someone else? I put one foot onto the lip of the pot and gritted my teeth. Of course, I knew why they always picked me; because I was deaf and less affected by the mandrakes’ evil crying.

I yanked as hard as I could, felt the soil give way and the leaves move up in my hand. I shut my eyes and kept pulling. The dagger shook in my other hand and I felt my fingers start to go numb.

I opened my eyes and saw that the top of the mandrake was coming up. Soil was raining down and the pot was cracking under the pressure. I grabbed tighter, knowing as soon as the mandrake felt air that it would try and borrow back down. Breaking the pot would help but would also send the mandrake into shock and that kind of scream could kill everyone.

I shut my eyes again, concentrated and pulled as if my life depended on it. I felt the pot and more soil giving way. Something brushed my skin and I opened my eyes to see a small branches trying to curl around me.

With the dagger I tapped the branch away and pulled the mandrake up the rest of the way. The horrible thing popped out. It was a dark brown colour, all wrinkled and covered in soil. Many branches that made up the limbs were thrashing around, dirt going everywhere and roots were desperately clinging to whatever they could, including myself.

It was hard to pick facial features out of the folds of flesh but I could just make out the screwed up eyes either side of the bulbous nose. The mouth was torn up in a terrifying scream showing off rows and rows of fangs.

I could hear the screaming. It rang in my head and made me feel dizzy. I was deaf, so the mandrake’s crying and screaming should have no effect on me but for some reason it did. Before I could feel anything else, I stepped into the circle and placed the mandrake into the bowl of burning herbs and green liquid.

I swung the dagger up and brought it down into the mandrake. I didn’t want to see if I had killed it or not. I fled the room, tripping over someone’s foot as I did so.

Laying sprawled across the cold lab floor, I felt the door shoving me further along as someone shut it behind me. I felt sick, dizzy and there was a ringing my head that I knew shouldn’t have been there.

I let time passed for awhile then got up on my hands and knees. I crawled to the stairs. Feeling like I was a ship on a stormy sea and at any moment I was going to be tossed into those monstrous waves. Reaching the stairs didn’t stop it. I climbed them like a baby for the first time and at the top I pushed opened the door and lay down on the warm kitchen floor.

I threw up, everything coming out of me and covering the floor. I was spinning like a child’s top and flying off into nothingness. After everything in my stomach was gone, I dry heaved until blood appeared.

I hugged myself, gulped in air and curled up on the floor. Tears washed my faces and the screaming in my head wouldn’t stop. I felt like I was dying.

Slowly, everything began to fade. My body felt better, though exhausted. I stretched out, feeling waves of sleep taking me.

Next time, Elan could get her own mandrake.

 

(Inspired by; https://fivedotoh.com/2020/05/11/fandangos-flash-fiction-challenge-65/ with thanks).

Home #WWP

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I kept dreaming of a house I could never go back to. Each time, the house was the setting for a different story; a fire in which my friends died, a place of safety from a invisible monster or a brothel where I had to work to survive.

It was my great-grandfather’s home. The place I had lived in for ten years after my mother give me up. She was only fifteen, I forgive her. Nothing bad happened to me there so why was it in my dreams?

Perhaps, it was because the house had long been knocked down and was now haunting me? Can that happen? Can you have a ghost house?

 

(Inspired by; https://sammiscribbles.wordpress.com/2020/05/09/weekend-writing-prompt-156-home/ with thanks).

 

Lycanthropy #AtoZChallenge

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Lycanthropy – supernatural transformation of a person into a wolf

The full moon was rising in a squid ink sky. Dakota could sense it, his skin was crawling and the creature shifted his muscles and bones as it got ready to realise.

Dakota drove out to the forest were rain still dripped off the spring tree leaves. He followed an old hunters’ track and parked in front of the long abandoned cabin. He got out, took his clothes off and left everything in the truck.

Dakota walked deep into the forest, not worried about getting lost as his keen smell would led him back to the truck. The creature was always with him and he could use its’ supernatural senses anytime Dakota wanted. Unfortunately, there was a price to pay and that was what the creature always demanded – freedom.

He didn’t know what it was about the cycle of the moon that the creature seemed to follow. He guessed it was part of the curse. Dakota had tried everything to keep the creature in but every full moon the creature took total control and there was nothing he could do.

Out here in the forest was the safest place to be. There was space for the creature to roam and to not come across anybody. Dakota felt a twist in his gut, he remembered everything about these nights like he was watching a live movie. So far he hadn’t killed a person but he dreaded doing so.

Pain raced through his body and Dakota dropped to the ground. Everything in his body was on fire. He gritted his teeth and tried not to cry out in pain as the transformation happened. He felt his spine changing first then his limbs and head. It took seconds but it felt like years.

Dakota slummed on the damp soil, breathing deeply and felt the numbness kicking in. It was a relief. Darkness cover his sight and he feel unconscious.

When he stirred, he had fully changed. The creature’s eyes were sharp and able to see in the dark. His tall ears pricked to all sounds of the forest which had the same volume as a heavy metal concert. The creature’s nose sniffed deeply the so many wonderful smells of live. The creature shook it’s body and felt the mass covering of fur fly then settle back into place.

The creature shifted soil beneath its paws. The urge to hunt and kill growing. Throwing a massive head back, the creature let rip a monster’s howl.

It was free once more.

(Inspired by; http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com)

Deracinate #AtoZChallenge (Part 2)

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Deracinate – to tear something up by the roots

(Please note there is some adult content in this story)

Rubbing sleep from my eyes, I got up and went outside to the well. There was no one there but signs that people had been gathering water earlier. I pulled the handle around and drew up the rope which the bucket was attached too.

Birds were singing in the trees, animals were being noisy – demanding food-  there was no wind and the sun was all ready warming. I could smell the start of peat fires as water was heated and food cooked in the little huts.

I pulled the bucket full of water out of the well and began washing my hands and face. Then I did my feet, arms and legs, following the washing pattern I had done all my life. Normally, I would have been in the Temple bathhouse, naked with my dorm Sisters. There would have been hot water, steam and fragrant soaps.

I couldn’t remember the last time I had had a full bath or washed my hair. I wasn’t ashamed of my body but I was aware of the trouble being naked could cause. Sighing, I finished off washing and poured the water into one of the buckets that was used for washing clothes and other things, when anybody could be bothered to do so.

Back in my hut there was a warm pot of tea, a jug of ale and a bowl of thin porridge for me to have. The old woman who had woke me was serving the breakfast out. There was a low mutter of talking and I caught a few words of that but it was mostly complaints about things and a challenge for who could pick the most apples today.

Out in the orchard, it didn’t look like we had made much progress yesterday. There were many trees looking weighed down with apples. Wood ladders were laid against the tree trunks with baskets and carts drawn by old horses were under the trees. I stood with everyone else and listened to the orders given then it was skirts tied up and climbing the ladder for me once more.

My legs and arms were still aching after yesterday but I tried to ignore that and get on with bringing the apples down once more. Twisting them off, I threw the apples down to the catchers below – who were old people and children- and they put the fruit into the baskets. The large men came and put the baskets onto the carts and left an empty basket behind.

The sun grew hotter throughout the day, it made me sleepy and desperate for a cold bath. Like yesterday, we were allow to stop a few times for drink and food but it didn’t help that much. The ale tasted strange in my mouth even though I should have been use to it by now. Nobody drank much water but I would have preferred it. The food was always bread and cheese, sometimes it was fresh other times it wasn’t.

I stole two apples. I had climbed higher into the tree, balancing on the thinner branches to reach the apples at the top. Everyone’s attention was drawn to a woman with child who had fainted. It was easy for me to slip the apples into the pockets of my underskirt and take a rest on a thicker branch. From here, I could see a lot of people gathered around the woman. She was placed on a cart and taken away with some women and perhaps her husband following.

‘Come on, get back to work!’ someone yelled and everyone walked back to their choice tree.

I threw down the last of the apples and came down the ladder. The rest of the day drew itself out as if it didn’t want to end. The smell of the apples and trees clogged my other senses. I felt I could just curl up on a branch and sleep forever. Even the children who seemed to have boundless energy were tried and some had fallen sleep at the bases of trees.

Drinking some ale, I heard my stomach growl in hunger. Soon it would be time to eat. I looked up at the sky and saw that the sun was in it’s setting position but it had no intention of going down for another two or three hours. The ale tasted too malty and slightly gritty, I drank it all, too thirsty to stop.

Petting the old shire horse, who’s cart I had been leaning against, I helped pick up any apples on the ground as the pickers decided to shake the trees out. Some of these apples could be added to the collection and others would go to the animals.

I stumbled over something and decided I’d had enough of these shoes. I took them off and in my bare feet carried on working. The earth and grass were cool, reminding me of times I had run around the Temple and it’s gardens. And I felt the call. The earth whispering to me asking what I wished of it.

I had to ignore it and get back to picking up apples. I put them into the ‘basket’ I had created with my dress. It was an easier way. Then I tipped them into the wicker baskets and went back together more.

Finally, the sun was setting. The bright blue sky turning paler and darker as the sun dipped. We collected the last of the day’s apples and followed the horses and carts back. People began going their own ways. I went to the well and joined the queue for water. It as too long and I decided to go to the stream instead.

Other people were heading there too but I could walk along to find a patch of my own. There wasn’t a lot of shade out here, there was just fields. I passed some cows who were getting ready for evening milking. The sheep hadn’t been brought down from the hills yet but there were some goats milling around.

At the stream, I walked by people who were drinking or collecting or taking clothes off for a wash. I saw some naked children splashing each other. An old woman with her skirts all bunched up as she dipped her feet and legs in. A few men just in their breaches pouring water from jugs over their heads and three young women watching them and giggling.

I found a quiet spot, far down from everyone else and also beside a small tree. I took all my clothes off. Wishing I had clean ones to put on. Beside from a few undergarments, I had nothing else to wear. In the Temple, I had worn white dress with sliver thread edges to show I was a novice. I could wear a clean one everyday if I had wanted.

I took the cloth strip from my head and pulled my hair down. Leaving my clothes by the tree, I stepped carefully into the stream. It was blissfully cold. Stones felt rough under the feet, so I moved a few of them then crouched down in the little exposed area of stream bed I had made. I cupped the water and splashed it all over me. The cold of it prickled my skin but it was too nice to stop.

I tried to imagine myself in a Temple bath, cooling down after a long day. The chatter of my Sister around me. Everything was cool and clean. There would be robes to wrap in, clean clothes and lots of food to eat this evening. Autumn time had also been my favourite season of year because of that.

‘What we got ‘ere then?’

The man’s voice broke through my thoughts, I stilled and looked up at him. He was grinning, showing missing teeth, rough black stub covered the lower half of his face. His brown eyes were shinning as if he was delighted by the sight before him. He was grubby, thin and a youngish look about him, maybe in his twenties?

‘You’re the mute girl, ain’t you?’

I shook my head and wonder if I did speak would he leave me alone? Panic swelled in my stomach. I knew I should go, put my clothes on and run but wouldn’t that expose me more and invite him to give chase? Not moving might be better but I really wasn’t sure….Maybe, if I had kept some clothes on it would have a made a difference.

‘Yes, you are,’ the man said in a low voice, ‘no one has hair like your’s….’

I looked at my hair, the cherry red colour had darkened with the water and felt heavier, the long wet strands were giving me some cover. I brought more of it around to hide my chest. The man noticed the movement and one of his eyebrows raised.

‘I think you need some company,’ he said and began taking his clothes off.

I shook my head and panic made me flee. I stood, water dripping off me and rushed to my clothes pile. Without throwing anything on, I ran naked into the opposite field. He chased after me, not shouting – I guess so he didn’t draw attention. I didn’t look back, I concentrated on finding some cover but of course there was none to be had.

I dropped a shoe and tried to pick it up. A heavy weight flew into the back of me and sent me tumbling to the ground.

‘Oh, yes! That’s how I like my women!’ the man spoke, his voice full of lust.

I twisted around and saw him dropping his breaches down and his manhood on display.

I couldn’t let this happen! The Sisters prepared us well for sex and bearing children but they taught us it was an act of our faith. Our bodies were vessels for the next Sisters and we shouldn’t just lay with any man. There were rites to be done…

I scrambled upwards but the man threw himself down on top of me and grappled me to the ground. I tasted dirt and blood on my lips. His breath was harsh in my ears and I could feel the hardness of him pushing against my rear end. He tried to part my legs with his own but I strained against him.

My hands clenched around the dry soil and before I could think, instinct took over. I told the earth to blind him as I threw the soil into his face. He cried out and moved his hands off me to try and get his eyes clean. I wiggled out from under him and sat facing him, my chest heaving with deep breaths.

The man swore at me, calling me nasty names as he rubbed his eyes and blinked. His eyes had turned white.

‘I can’t see!’ he screamed.

I plunged my hands deep in the soil and felt the power growing within. The ground shook, the grass shaking wildly then the earth began splitting, a hole appearing under the man and because he was distracted by being blind, he fell into the hole. He screamed but it was cut off by the ground coming back together and the soil closing around him.

‘I didn’t mean it,’ I whispered looking at the spot the the man had disappeared from.

Grass brushed against my naked skin, the soil was cold underneath me. Licking my lips and tasted blood and dirt on them still. I turned away, saw my clothes and quickly got dressed. I ran back to the stream, washing the soil away then rushed to my hidey hole.

There I wrapped the blanket around my shoulders and curled up. The Sisters taught us to control our powers. To not use them without thinking nor in anger. I had broken that lesson. What was I going to do?

Tears washed down my face, thoughts flooded my mind and I couldn’t calm down. All I could see was the earth swallowing that man!

Darkness pressed against my makeshift shelter. I looked out from a hole and steadied myself. No one knew what had happened and if anybody asked me, I was a mute who couldn’t utter a word. The man was gone so he couldn’t say anything against me. I could carry on as normal. That would be the best thing and no one would ever know.

I got up and went to the well, I sorted myself out, tied my wet hair back up and under the cloth, brushed grass from my clothes and put on my shoes. I went back to my hut and found a little stew and tea left for me to have.

Some people were smoking in chairs beside the fire and others had gone to bed all ready. No one looked or spoke to me. I tried to act as normal, tipping the stew into my mouth and swallowing down the cooling tea. I got into bed and pulled the woollen blanket over my head.

I lay breathing deeply, my eyes squeezed shut and trying to blank my mind. I had made a terrible, terrible mistake but I would learn from it and never again would I act like that.

I was alone now. I had to control my gift. I had to stay hidden.

 

(Inspired by; http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com)

Deracinate #AtoZChallenge (Part 1)

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Deracinate – to tear something up by the roots

All stories start with something and this story starts with an apple. It was a normal apple, bright red and ripe for picking. I twisted it off the tree and with a quick look around, I slipped it into a pocket in my underskirt. It was the first apple I had ever picked and the first thing I had ever stolen.

I was wearing clothes that were not my own; an old, patched up blue dress with layers of grey skirts and stays for my growing woman’s shape. On my feet were falling apart brown leather shoes, worn down from all the walking and work. My hair, dirty and unwashed for days like the rest of me was a cherry red colour which shone gold in the full sun or moonlight. It was tied in a bun under a strip of cloth that covered my head.

I carried on picking apples all day. Stopping only a few times to sip ale and nibble mouldy bread. The other workers didn’t speak to me, energy was wasted by talking and there was too much to do. Also, they all thought I was a mute. The apples in their wicker baskets were loaded onto a cart and taken into a stable to be sorted. Some apples were to be sold at the markets and others made into cider.

The sun set and some of us retreated to little huts the farmer had given us for the harvest season. The rest of the workers went to houses or other places they had in the surrounding villages. We ate a weak stew then in a haze of peat smoke, pipe tobacco and sleepiness, I slipped outside.

A few feet away was my hidey hole. It was a little nook in a tumbled down animal shelter. I had made a seat out of some of the wood and placed straw on the floor. There was a holder for a small candle and a worn blanket. I wrapped myself up and lit a candle. I listened but there was only the sound of the wind and animals.

I took the stolen apple out from my pocket. I had eaten apples of course but not for a while now. Not since I had left my Sisters. I rubbed the waxy surface of the apple then bought it to my nose and breathed in deeply of the fresh, sweet and fruity scent. I bit into the apple, the flesh and juice were too sugary and crisp. It all returned me to my past.

The memory of my Sisters made tears prick my eyes. I had been born into them and grew up not knowing anything else. I had learnt many languages, to read and write them. I had learnt potion making of all kinds, casting, calling, spells both defensive and inflicting, herbs by all their names and their many usages, prayers and songs, baking and mending, romance and the weakness of men and monsters, plus so much more.

We lived in large groups in many cities, towns and villages. We had Temples which some of us also lived in though most preferred houses with their families and or other Sisters. My home was a white Temple in a fine old city. We had a patch of land that was a small farm where we grew fruits, vegetables, herbs and plants. There were also animals; chickens, cows, rabbits, bees, dogs, cats, ravens and owls.

We had been in harmony with all peoples and nature. We had been looked upon for help in a whole range of problems; sickness, death, childbirth, crop and animal failures, wars and feuds, blessings, future readings, advice, teachings and lots more. Then something had happened four years ago, some turning of the tide that caused the Sisters downfall.

War had knocked upon us. The people rose against us declaring us bad and forgetting all we had done of them. The Sisters fought back but the enemies were numerous, over powering and driven by unquenchable rage. We were torn apart. Our homes and Temples burnt with some of us still inside, the rest put to the blade or their deaths on show. We were hunted down like scared deer, not understanding why we had been turned upon.

I had been lucky, being only a girl of twelve I had escaped with some others into the crypts below. There our Fallen Sisters lay at their never ending rests. Their bodies wrapped in white sheets and tied with red ribbons. They were placed on stone shelves on top of each other with carved wooden symbols of our faith; bell, book, candle, crested moon, bunches of herbs, cats, ravens and owls.

In the middle of the crypts were the highly decorated marble sarcophagi some of which had effigies on them and there were also statues of the High and Supreme Priestess or Sorceresses. Candles, incense, fresh flowers and prayers were constantly supplied into the crypts and long Fallen In Memoria ceremonies took place day and night down there.

When we escaped, we were meant to stay together but in the darkness and vastness of the jungle we lost each other. I had wanted to go back, I had tried hard to but somehow I had never been able to find my home again. Perhaps it had been a spell cast by the Sorceresses to keep all the novice witches safe? I would never known.

Needing shelter, food and places to hide, I found work on farms. Hard work but at least no one saw me as anything other then an orphan girl on the run. I was too traumatised to speak for a long time and the label of ‘mute’ stuck to me but I found it easy to wear this mask. I didn’t have to answer any questions and say anything which might reveal or create suspicion to what I was.

Novice Sisters didn’t get the tattoos, clothes and jewellery of the faith until they became of age at sixteen then they were called Practitioners. Once everyone could see what you were it was too late to hide. That’s why only the girls had escaped and hardly hunting though I bet innocent girls had been put to fire or to water or just slain by swords.

I had the last bite of the apple and sat with the core in my hand. I thought about practising some magic on it, I still tried often to do things I had been taught. The risk of being caught stopped me. It was all a part of me though, I couldn’t forget or ever stop it no matter what I did. Magic and faith flowed through me like blood.

I transferred the light of the candle to another I had brought. I could have cast my own light but that was asking for trouble. Blowing out the first candle, I made the long way to the pig pens. There was no moon or stars in the sky, clouds were banking up there but I knew it wasn’t going to rain tomorrow. It was going to be another hot and dry autumn day.

A fat, pink pig happily took the apple core from me then snuffled back to sleep. I was half tempted to crawl inside his wooden house within him but instead I made my way back to my own bed.

I slipped through the door and into my cot. Pulling the harsh wool blanket over me, I tried to sleep. Around me, in other cots or chairs were ten or so people all fast sleep. There was snoring and mumbling, sounds of breathing and tossing, it all reminded me of the dorm room I had slept in at the Temple.

The fire was low, only a whisper of heat left within it. I could have brought it back to life and made it everlasting with no need for fuel. I could bend the flames to my will, ask them to burn this hut down, the farm and the apple trees, the people too if I wanted.

I could command the wind to fan the fire more, to blow a gale, destroy everything in its path. I could call water from the well, from the stream and the sky to cover everything and wash it all away. The earth would answer me if I whispered my wants to it, the ground could shake or spilt up and swallow everything.

Plants would be my allies, I could encourage them to grow fast, to wrap around and suffocate everything. I could speak to animals, bargaining with them to do tasks; to bring me food, to help me kill someone, to be my eyes and ears in another place.

There had been other Novice Sisters in my classes who could do things with energy from furniture and other things, pull out memories from minds, whisper thoughts into your head, make objects move and more. We each had our own gifts and talents, our favourite things to work with. Some found the powers easier to work with, others hard and some not at all.

I fell asleep and dreamed about one of those girls I knew, her name had been Aenwyn. For years, she didn’t show any magic abilities no matter what she did. Some of the other girls laughed at Aenwyn but we were friends and one day we were talking as we picked herbs. The smell of those things was heady, mixed in with strong wild garlic. Bees were buzzing in the air gathering honey for their hives. It was a hot, dry summer day.

‘Elenora, what will become of me?’ Aenwyn asked me.

‘Why Aenwyn,’ I answered, ‘you’ll get the best job of all! You’ll become a Matron. You’ll get to look after the Sisters, their daughters, you’ll work in the gardens, with the animals and in the kitchens too. You like baking bread and tending the rabbits, don’t you?’

Aenwyn nodded, ‘but I’d rather be like you, Elenora! You’ll become a druidess.’

‘Maybe, but I’d rather be an elementalist,’ I said, ‘imagine what you can do if you can bend elements to your wants?’

Aenwyn shook her head, ‘it is too great a power.’

I laughed and picked a blood red beetle off one of the baby leaves of sage. I shut my eyes in concentration and called upon the air to fly the beetle away. My request was granted and the beetled was lifted away and over the walls.

Aenwyn opened her mouth but her words were drowned out by the Temple bells, it was time for afternoon prayers. Then we would read the books of our faith before washing and changing to go for evening meal. Afterwards, we would finish our daily tasks, put the animals to bed then change and wash again for the nighttime chants and prayers then it would bedtime as the sunset.

We had lived by the callings of the bells, the tasks set to us by Matron Sisters, Tutor Sisters and Dorm Sisters. Our lives were structured, we knew what to do within each hour by heart. We knew our duty, our destinies, the powers within us until everything was uprooted by the war against us.

Someone was shaking me awake. The faint ringing of bells from my past in my ears. Waking, I saw an old woman, half her wrinkled brown face was covered by long, ragged, white hair, her simple peasant dress too loose around her wasting body.

The sun had rose and brought another day of apple picking with it.

To Be Continued…

(Inspired by; http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com)

Afreet #DearDiary #AtoZChallenge

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Afreet – a powerful jinn or demon from Arabian and Muslim mythology

Dear Diary,

My eBay parcel has arrived! A whole two months after ordering and having the delivery date continuously set back. I wasn’t expecting to never receive it, thinking I’d fallen into a scam again but no! I opened the parcel and inside was the box! And it’s a perfect addition to my collection.

It’s so pretty, all cherry wood with intricate inlaid design of flowers, leaves and swirls. It’s bigger then both my hands put together, so a medium size then. It’s hard to tell the age but it must be old because it’s smooth to the touch and looks quite worn down. There’s damage to one corner, it’s cracked and chipped but it’s at the back so can be hidden.

I went to open it but couldn’t not! There was a tiny keyhole lock and of course, no key to be found! Disappointed but determined, I got some tools out and after a few minutes I had broken the lock.

The hinges were old too but silent as I opened the box. Inside, was all wood and a darker colour from the outside which showed how time had aged things.

I smiled, thankful it had arrived safely but then a sort of thick, dark red mist rose up from the box! There was a strong gust of air, I dropped the thing and tumbled backwards. I hit my head on the edge of the sofa and as I sat up rubbing the growing bruise, I saw a form taking place above the coffee table.

I was too shocked to cry out or anything, I just carried on watching as before me appeared a huge red demon ? His massive black curly horns bashed into the ceiling, He had no hair, his eyes with gold coloured and the size of dinner plates. His body was all rippling with muscles and they were so pronounced I could count them all clearly! His hands and fingers were long and claw like. From his hips downwards was a tornado of red smoke which twisted down to a sharp point.

He was heavily decorated with gold jewelry; chains as thick as his arms were around his neck and waist, huge hoop earrings hung from dropped lops and touched his shoulders. Around his wrists and arms were so many bracelets and cuffs it was hard to see his red skin underneath! On his claws were many rings, some were solid but others had gem and precious stones inlaid.

An almighty laugh echoed out of him which shook my house like an earthquake. He seemed very pleased about something. He curled his hands up and rose them to the ceiling as he threw his head back, horns scraping the ceiling and raining down bits of plaster.

I wet myself with fear. I hate to admitment that, Diary but it’s true. I thought I had released the Devil himself! I hide behind the sofa, shaking and with my hands over my ears because his laughter was deafening and sounded like that of an insane man. There was no time to think or do anything. Not that I could have done if I was capable.

The laughter faded then the sofa was tossed aside as if it was little more then child’s rag doll. The demon looked me down, puffing out mega lung fulls of breath.

‘Don’t hurt me! I’m sorry!’ I cried.

‘Bow to me mortal!’ the demon’s voice boomed.

I nodded and pressed my head to the carpet. What else was I meant to do?

‘I am an Afreet, a Jinn and you have released me after a hundred years of being stuck in that box.’

‘A genie? Like in a super being who grants wishes?’ I questioned to myself.

‘No. I am a demon of the underworld,’ replied the Afreet, ‘and now I am free once more to reap chaos on the world!’

He laughed that horrible victorious laugh once more then explode out of living room. My house crumpled like a bomb had hit it. I dashed out of the hole the Afreet had made and into the street. I tripped over something and lay dazed in the middle of the road.

My house was obliterated and nothing more then a pile of bricks and broken glass. The firebridge said it must have been a gas leak or an unexploded World War 2 bomb that had been missed and just triggered itself.

Recovering in hospital and now resting in this hotel room, I decided to write this true account of what happened. Where the Afreet is now I have no idea but I know he was real and soon we will feel the chaos.

(Inspired by; http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/2020/04/atozchallenge-2020-anamnesis.html?fbclid=IwAR1f82CLEmAg_AoRywI2FIKGN-OBFnOj7yuGd_JVWiayKcigQmzAADB2L0E thanks.

It’s that time of year again! It’s the April A-Z challenge. I’m sticking with my normal theme of discovering words. I hope you enjoy reading all my stories this month and like me, learn some new words along the way).

The Records Office (Part 2)

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Elisa frowned and walked back into the kitchen. The kettle clicked and she made a coffee. Looking around, she decided not to eat in here as she normally did, but go back to the office and turn the TV on for awhile.

The microwave pinged, she got her food and went back to her desk. The radio was still on but no longer playing classical music, it was an old rock song instead. Elisa went over and looked at the dial. It had been moved from her normal station to another. Wondering why that kept happening, she turned it off and put the TV on.

Channel flicking, Elisa ended up with the news again. She ate and listened to the reporter talking absentmindedly. Years ago, she would have often gone out to lunch with the others. Now, going out and eating alone seemed pointless. Staying at her desk meant she could work through lunch or have a shorter break and thus leave earlier. Today felt like one of those days.

Just before Elisa finished the phone rang. She gulped down her coffee and answered the call, ‘hello, Greenfield Hospital Records Office.’

White noise blasted back at her. Elisa listened for a moment then repeated herself. Still static. She hung up and waited a minute. The phone stayed silent. Eliza took another drink of coffee and the phone rang again.

‘Hello?’

White noise then a super distance voice saying something.

‘Pardon me? I can’t hear you,’ Elisa spoke.

More static blared and Elisa had to hold the phone away from her ear. Placing the receiver back again, she had a voice once more but couldn’t make out anything out. She hung up and decided to let the answer machine get the next call. If it was important, they would keep trying.

Elisa finished her coffee and tided up. She went into the kitchen and saw the sink tap running. Turning it off, she told herself she had left it on and went to visit the bathroom. A tap was also running in here.

Elisa went to the middle sink and turned it off. She was sure she hadn’t left it on. She hadn’t used that sink last time she was in here. She went to the toilet and coming out of the stall, she saw that all the taps were on.

‘What the…? Is there a plumping problem?’

Elisa turned all the taps off then had to turn one back  on to wash her hands. That done, she left, went back to her desk and phoned her boss. There was no maintenance team anymore and any reports like that had to be put into the boss who would then find a handyman to fix it. If they could be bothered. It was unsure what the plans were for the now abandoned hospital. So, maintenance was no longer a priority.

Leaving a message, Elisa got back to work. If she skipped her afternoon break, she could leave forty-five minutes early. She looked at the clock to double check this and saw that the hands had stopped on twelve.

Frowning Elisa got up and took it off the wall. The battery had probably died. She set it on the edge of her desk and looked at her PC clock instead. Nodding, she got back to work, typing up the paper files and refiling things.

The tick tick of a clock stopped her fingers over the keyboard. She looked at the clock and saw the hands had began to move again.

‘Odd,’ she uttered.

Elisa took the battery out and turned back to her work.

Tick Tick.

She looked at the clock. The hands were still moving.

‘That’s not possible!’ Elisa cried.

She picked up the clock and watched the hands move. They stopped on two and four. Elisa turned the clock around and spun the dial back so that both hands were on twelve again. Holding the clock before her, she watched it closely but the hands didn’t move. Elisa placed the clock on the edge of her desk and watched the hands again. They stayed still.

‘I’m not losing it,’ Elisa spoke.

She got up and went into the kitchen. She splashed cold water on her face then drink down a whole glass of water. Elisa put the kettle on and made a coffee. Waiting, she heard footsteps in the hallway.

That must be security doing their rounds, she thought.

The footsteps walked passed the kitchen. A door creaked open then slammed shut. Elisa jumped and hurried out but there was no one in the corridor. She walked to each door, knocked on them, called ‘hello?’ then tried to open the doors but they were all locked.

‘Maybe, it was another door somewhere else?’

Going back to the kitchen, Elisa made her coffee and returned to her desk. The TV was off and the radio was on. A pop song was echoing through the speaker. Elisa turned it back to the classical station.

‘Today’s messed up,’ Elisa spoke.

The phone rang. She picked it up and heard static. Hanging up, Elisa sent an email to her boss complaining about a problem with the telephone.

A clacking, like something metal falling over, made Elisa gasp and jump around. The noise had come from above somewhere. Breathing deeply, Elisa told herself to calm down. Something had just fallen over. Maybe, a security guard had moved something. It was nothing to worry about.

A crawling feeling like a spider walking up her hand, rose the hairs on her skin and Elisa felt chilly. The feeling that something wasn’t right and she was being watched, had her turning this way and that.

‘I’m done for the day. I’ll make the hours up later.’

Elisa packed up, gathered her things and left. Going up the stairs, she felt slightly better. The basement without any windows sometimes felt claustrophobic and perhaps that all it was. Elisa reached the floor above and walked down the corridor.

She passed windows, it was raining and getting dark all ready. Lights flickered above her and footsteps fell into time with her own. Elisa turned, there was no one just an empty corridor.

Elisa hurried on, wanting nothing more then to get outside. Once, she was in the fresh air things would be better. It was all in her head, she had been working and thinking too hard. Ghosts weren’t real. It was all just normal sounds.

It felt like forever before she arrived at the main doors. She went though and outside. Rain splashed her face, cold wind stirred around her and Elisa felt more at ease. The strange notion that she couldn’t be got out here floated into her mind.

Elisa tried to shake that thought away. What did it mean anyway? Opening her umbrella, she huddled underneath it and walked back to her car. Not once did she look back but if she had done, she would have seen countless outlines of people looking out of the windows watching her go.

The Records Office (Part 1)

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Elisa unlocked the main hospital’s back door and stepped inside. Rain dripped off her umbrella and coat. Named storm Jorge was building up out there, the rain was heavy coming down on all ready flooded ground and the wind was blowing like a speeding car.

Turning on the lights, Elisa shook her umbrella out and caught her breath. She could hear the rain dripping inside somewhere close by and the wind working it’s way through the broken windows. Hoping it wasn’t too cold in her office today, Elisa walked down the quiet hospital corridors towards the basement.

She was dressed in her relaxed Friday office clothes; grey trousers, flat black shoes, lime green long sleeve blouse and a woollen black jumper. She carried her heavy backpack on one shoulder which held all she needed, plus more to get her through the working day.

Choosing the two flights of stairs inside of the elevator, Elisa watched her step and recalled how only five years, this back staircase would have been busy with office staff and hospital workers. Now, like the rest of the place, they were still. For the past year and a half, Elisa and three security guards were the only people left at the recently closed grounds.

Reaching the basement, Elisa walked to the fourth door which was labelled as The Patients’ Records Office. The other rooms down here were a mixture of supply, storage, other paperwork, a large staff break room and other offices. Sometimes, Elisa would have to go in these other rooms to find things but mostly, she stuck to her desk.

Unlocking the door with one with the keys from a massive bunch of them, Elisa went in and put her umbrella into the stand. Wiggling out of her coat, she hung that up on a peg then put her rucksack at the leg of her desk.

The office was too quiet, she could feel the pressure on her ears. Elisa turned the small TV on which was on the far wall above the handful of abandoned desks and cabinets. The news came on, the sound breaking the quietness and making her feel like she was no longer alone.

Her desk was in the middle of the room, facing the door but she had turned the angle of it so she could see the TV as well. Eliza put her rucksack down, turned on her computer and both screens. Next, she put the heaters on and the kettle too. She made a coffee and sat down on her old chair.

Of all the staff to stay employed to complete the final tasks of the hospital, she was now the last one. Perhaps, she had been chosen because she had been here for over twenty years and had been the manager of the patients’ records for six of those? Maybe, it was because she had been close to retirement and her boss had felt sorry for her?

‘I don’t mind,’ Elisa had said at the deciding meeting, ‘I can’t imagine retiring and having nothing to do. I’ve been applying for jobs and got some interviews.’

‘The board would like you to stay awhile and finish up things,’ her boss had spoken, ‘would that be okay? Your pay and hours won’t change but you may find yourself working alone for a bit. I’m not sure who else will be staying on.’

Without thinking, Elisa had replied, ‘that’s fine. I don’t mind.’

Her job was simple enough; putting paper records onto the computer system. Checking things had been filed correctly, searching for information when contacted by medical staff or the public and disposing of documents as needed.

It was eerie being here alone but Elisa had grown use to it and didn’t mind as much now. She found she could watch whatever TV or listen to whichever radio station she wanted. There was no waiting around in the break room, no one distracting her and she didn’t mind being a bit lonely.

Sometimes, the phone would ring and it would be security checking  up on her or was medical person from another hospital wanting information. Elisa’s boss would call make sure anything was okay and maybe asking her to do something. Once or twice, a person had phoned who was tracing their family history and Elisa had been happy to help see if there was any records of that surname. 

Occasionally, the back door bell would ring and Elisa would answer the phone to find her boss was outside having come on a visit or it would be a PA from someone from the board wanting to pick something up or a security guard come for a chat.

More often then not, the working day would pass without Elisa having contact from anyone. It didn’t worry her though because she knew there wasn’t much of a need for a closed down hospital’s paperwork.

Recently, Elisa had stated hearing and noticing odd things. She didn’t believe in ghosts, she was a religious Roman Catholic and trusted that everyone went to Heaven or Hell. However, things that didn’t have an explanation happened were happening.

The sounds of doors opening and closing, though there was no wind that day. Voices whispering when Elisa knew she was alone. The phone ringing and no one being there or another phone ringing somewhere else which shouldn’t happen because all other phones were disconnected. Equipment being moved or knocked over, footstep above her or outside the records office door and two or three times, the feeling she was being watched.

Elisa had rung the security team and the police a few times and told them, ‘I think someone is in the building, can you check?’ or ‘I’m just seeing if a security guard is close by as there was a big banging sound and a door slamming.’

It was better to be save then sorry and Elisa was just sure it was animals or the natural movement of things. She got on with her work, filling her mind with her tasks and home plans. Perhaps, soon her employment would come to the end and she would get a new job where she had to work surrounded by people again.

I think I’d like that, to have colleagues again, Elisa thought, to chat with someone and get help with tasks. To make new friends and share cooking tips.

Elisa smiled and carried on typing up records whilst above the hospital buildings lay in silence. That didn’t last long because somewhere a door creaked open and a voice called out.

Pausing, Elisa looked up and listened. Blaming the wind, she turned off the TV and put the radio on instead. A pop song filled the room. Frowning, Elisa moved the dial back to the classical station she preferred and went back to work once more.

Lunchtime arrived. Stretching, Eliza got up and went into the break room. Her back and limbs felt stiff but some light exercises whilst she waited for her ready-meal to heat up would help.

‘It’s hotpot today,’ she said to herself, putting it in the microwave.

She filled the kettle and made another coffee.

Heavy footsteps sounded in the hall and approached the door.

Thinking it was one of the security guards, Elisa called out, ‘hi, come and have some lunch with me. I could do with the company today. Fridays drag so much don’t they?’

She turned, expecting to see someone but there was no one in the room. Puzzled, Elisa stepped out into the corridor and saw she was quite alone.

 

To Be Continued…